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DENNIS B. STEPHENS AND HELEN M. STEPHENS v. ROBERT M. CARRARA AND HEDWIG F. CARRARA (04/12/79)

decided: April 12, 1979.

DENNIS B. STEPHENS AND HELEN M. STEPHENS, HIS WIFE
v.
ROBERT M. CARRARA AND HEDWIG F. CARRARA, HIS WIFE, APPELLANTS



No. 127 April Term, 1978, Appeal from the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Action - Law, of Beaver County at No. 722 of 1974.

COUNSEL

George E. James, Beaver Falls, for appellants.

James A. McGregor, Jr., Beaver, and with him Robert F. Palmquist, Beaver, for appellees.

Jacobs, President Judge and Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, Spaeth and Hester, JJ. Cercone, President Judge, concurs in the result. Jacobs, former President Judge, and Hoffman, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision in this case.

Author: Van Der Voort

[ 265 Pa. Super. Page 104]

The plaintiffs-appellees instituted the instant action to recover damages for an asserted breach of a written contract by defendants-appellants, which agreement concerned the sale of realty owned by plaintiffs-appellees. Trial was held in the lower court before a judge and jury, but at the conclusion of the presentation of all evidence, the trial judge directed a verdict for plaintiffs in the amount of $3,877.78. After the denial of defendants' motion for new trial or for judgment n. o. v., this appeal followed. While the verdict and the judgment in this case were against the husband appellant alone (for reasons which will be more fully explained herein), both Mr. and Mrs. Carrara are noted as having entered this appeal from the result reached in the lower court.

The facts of the underlying dispute are relatively simple. Plaintiffs-Appellees Dennis B. and Helen M. Stephens, husband and wife, desired to sell their home. The Defendants-Appellants, Robert M. and Hedwig Carrara, husband and wife, responded to the Stephens' newspaper advertisement and visited the home. After several visits and discussions, the Stephens and Mr. Carrara reached an oral agreement for the sale of the home. The Stephens had their attorney prepare a sales agreement and eventually they signed it as

[ 265 Pa. Super. Page 105]

    did Mr. Carrara, who also tendered a payment of $500.00 towards the agreed purchase price of $36,000.00, in accordance with the agreement. Mrs. Carrara never signed the sales agreement. Shortly before the scheduled closing date for the property, Mr. Carrara announced that his wife did not like the Stephens' home, that he was obtaining another home, and that he therefore did not intend to complete the purchase. He did not thereafter attend the closing or otherwise complete the deal, and the Stephens eventually sold to another purchaser for less than the amount that Mr. Carrara had agreed to pay. This action followed.

Several claims are raised on this appeal. One allegation of error which we find meritorious is the argument that the lower court erred in directing a verdict for the plaintiffs under all of the facts presented.

In our Commonwealth, it has long been held that only in a case where the facts are all clear, and there is no room for doubt, should the case be removed from the jury's consideration, and a motion for directed verdict or binding instructions be granted. Cox v. Equitable Gas Co., 227 Pa. Super. 153, 324 A.2d 516 (1974). Thus, before granting a directed verdict, the court must accept as true all facts and proper inferences from testimony which tend to support the contentions of the party against whom the motion has been made, and further, must reject all testimony and inferences to the contrary. Livzzo v. McKay, 396 Pa. 183, 152 A.2d 265 (1959); Continental Supermarket Food Service, Inc. v. Soboski, 210 Pa. Super. 304, 323 A.2d 216 (1967). We find that the facts were not so clear as to justify a directed verdict in the instant case.

The defense maintained that the real estate sales agreement should have been declared a nullity because Mrs. Carrara never signed it. It was theorized that the agreement, since it referred to four parties, including Mrs. Carrara, was incomplete and merely executory without her signature, and therefore not enforceable. Our review of the record reveals some possible support for that position. First, the ...


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